At age 13, I knew that I wasn’t a girl. I felt like I was forcing myself to wear makeup, dresses, and high heels. I felt like I was playing dress-up all the time for everyone, including myself. I knew something wasn’t right, and I felt out of place. In my senior year of high school, I wanted to wear a suit to prom, I felt uncomfortable in a dress. I didn’t want to wear makeup, a fancy dress, and high heels to prom. After prom, I experienced depression because it felt like I was thirteen again. I just couldn’t put my finger on it until later on in life, when I realized I was born in the wrong body, and I felt like I was alone. I began self-harming again, and I felt like no one wanted to be around me.
At 21, I told the Dean of students at Suffolk Community College about what I was going through. They connected me with a therapist that specializes in topics concerning the LGBTQ community. February 14, 2018, was when I saw the therapist, and they diagnosed me with gender dysphoria. According to NHS.org, gender dysphoria is defined as a mismatch between a person’s biological sex and their gender identity. My therapist explained that I could be either non-binary or transgender. The term transgender suited me best. I explained to my therapist that my name needed to be changed to match my gender. After a couple of months, I thought of a name that suited me best. My therapist and I then started to do the paperwork to process a name change. On September 5, 2018, I handed in the papers to the courts, and on November 2, 2018, my name officially became CJ Sean Ehrlich through the Supreme Court in Riverhead.
I thought the process of changing my name would have helped with my gender dysphoria, however, it didn’t and that’s when I thought about going on Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). HRT is a treatment process for people seeking to physically change their bodies to fit their sense of gender identity. On March 13, 2020, I started HRT, which was a shot in my leg every other week. During this time I was going back and forth with my gynecologist, who treated me like no transgender patient should be treated. They were disrespectful. In August 2020, I wanted a total hysterectomy to remove an ovarian cyst. The gynecologist’s office didn’t want to do a total hysterectomy, and they didn’t provide me with an option to remove the cyst. I changed from that gynecologist to one that would remove the ovarian cysts. The new gynecologist recommended a total hysterectomy since all the sonograms reported that the cyst had grown.
After speaking to my new gynecologist, they referred me to a gynecologic oncologist for a total hysterectomy. I met with the gynecologic oncologist for the total hysterectomy consultation. They approved the total hysterectomy in November 2020, and on January 21, 2021, the total hysterectomy was completed. After I gave my surgeon two letters of support, one from my therapist and one letter from my HRT doctor to make sure I was mentally ready for the upcoming procedures.
I felt like another chapter of my transition was complete after I had my hysterectomy, but I knew another chapter of my transition was ahead, which was my top surgery. This made me feel like my true self, and no longer uncomfortable in my own body. Before my top surgery, when I looked in the mirror I still physically looked like a girl because I had the breasts of a woman, however, mentally I was a male.
Eight months after my hysterectomy, I began looking for a top surgery surgeon. The surgery I was looking to get is called a double mastectomy but for my transition, it’s called Top Surgery. According to mayoclinic.org, a double mastectomy is a surgical procedure to remove your breast tissue (subcutaneous mastectomy). For this procedure, I needed to get three letters of support, two from my therapist and another from my HRT doctor for an extra support letter.December 22, 2021, was when I got the procedure done. My top surgery included losing my nipples, along with the 6-week recovery period where I couldn’t lift my arm above my head. I had tubes coming out of my surgical incisions to make sure fluid didn’t build up during the post-surgery recovery phase. The recovery period meant I had to wear a compression vest for around 2 weeks- 4 weeks straight except during showers.
After 6 months after my top surgery, I went to my surgeon’s office in Garden City to meet with the nurse practitioner who also happens to be a tattoo artist that does nipple tattoos for patients that may lose them during double mastectomy operations. The nipple tattoo came out very well after the 1st of two sessions, however, after the final session my nipples looked like there were never altered. The photos below show what my nipples looked like one week after my 1st session. The 2nd photo included below is from the second session of the nipple tattoo which was more of a touch-up since the coloring of the tattoo was starting to fade after around eight weeks. After I had my top surgery and nipple tattoo sessions, I felt like a brand new person with a new body because of the removal of the female breasts. When I was recovering from my top surgery I totally felt like a beautiful butterfly finally coming out of a cocoon.
Today, I still feel like some people might see me in the wrong body, but I also feel like many are still unaware of how to address everyone in the transgender community. Since I’ve completed everything for my transition, I feel much happier and more like my true self now that both my mental and physical states match how I identify. Everything in my transition was to build up my self-confidence that I didn’t have when I was younger. I feel like I have a support system at Farmingdale State College through Dr. Jordan and the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion community, Greenley Hall Library staff, and the Dale News. All of these people are like an extended family that’s welcoming to everybody in the LGBT community, especially the transgender community. I finally felt free like a new person that had a fresh start ahead of me, thanks to the warm welcome to Farmingdale, my family, and everyone that’s involved with my transition.
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